Giving the silent illness a voice

With Eating Disorder Awareness Week taking place next week 27th – 5th March it’s a little reminder just how crucial awareness of this ‘silent’ illness is. Eating disorders are a very secretive illness. Using myself as an example, to begin with I looked fine, my favourite phrase was ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m ok’ and I acted fine and my behaviour was fine. On the outside everything was OK. As the illness progresses it begins to take its toll and it’s clear to people around you that you are not indeed ‘fine’ but by this point it’s too late, the damage is done, the thoughts and feelings are ingrained and have taken deep root. These thoughts and feelings are no longer thoughts and feelings but they are the truth, they are fact and you believe them. Belief is the key here. If you believe something to be true then no matter what your friends or family or the doctors say to you, you won’t believe them. You know the truth. Everyone else is lying to you. That’s when the paranoia begins, everyone and everything is against you, you feel on edge when you walk in to the room and everyone goes quiet… or worse overly chatty. Clearly everyone was talking about you. Against you. This is when you no longer look fine, your behaviour speaks volumes but it’s too late. This is the point where people may try to help you, where you are forced to see a doctor. I did exactly that and only agreed to see a doctor to make my family happy and stop them worrying. I didn’t see the problem and didn’t think I was poorly enough to get help. When it slowly clicked I was terrified but I felt like it was too late. I wished that I’d seen the problem at the very beginning so that I could have received the help I needed before things got too bad but I didn’t. No-one noticed the signs and that’s because I was so good at hiding it, I had all of the excuses, all of the lies and I manipulated. No-one knew what was going on and why should they? Eating disorders were not talked about so freely and so how could anyone have noticed the signs so early on when I was fighting so hard to keep it hidden.

Awareness of eating disorders is so so important and by people talking about mental health and understanding the early warning signs better places family and friends to make the intervention. It’s sad but true that this lies with family and friends because your loved one cannot be trusted to help themselves, that is not the nature of an eating disorder. 

Recovery from an eating disorder is not a quick fix, you don’t get help and then you are better again, it takes years of hard work and in many cases you never fully recover BUT the sooner you get support and the treatment needed the sooner you can stop the downward spiral and begin working towards recovery. 

Whether it’s the beginning of an eating disorder or a third or forth relapse getting help quickly is the most important thing.

I’m no professional but from personal experiences I have identified the early warning signs. If a handful of people are reading this and take something you never know when or if you might need it.

Early warning signs, to name a few:

Preoccupation with food:

  • having ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • having a list of ‘safe’ foods
  • eliminating entire food groups
  • extreme interest in what others are eating
  • feeding other people 

Comments and thoughts around   weight, weighing themselves more frequently and a desire for the number to go down


Looking in the mirror more often than normal and touching or pinching body parts. 

If these phrases become part of your day to day conversations:

“I have already eaten”, ” I’ll eat later”, “I’m not hungry” “I don’t like that anymore” ” I had a big lunch”

Hiding food and throwing it away

Exercising obsessively with the intention of burning calories


Fixation on counting calories and numbers, checking food labels or knowing the calorie content in almost every food

Supermarket shops become painful, time consuming and stressful

Spending more time on the internet looking at diet sites and forums 

Anxiety and depression

Having a few outfits that are worn and washed constantly and only feeling comfortable in these. They tend to be loose fitting

Becoming defensive and snappy and angry with intense mood swings. Becoming angry for what seems like no reason and then being tearful the next.

Rigid eating behaviours:

  • using a certain bowl or spoon
  • cutting food into tiny pieces 
  • chewing a certain number of times
  • not letting foods touch

Avoiding social situations or being socially awkward and withdrawing and becoming isolated

Being cold and tired all the time

The more we talk and read about eating disorders the greater awareness there will be, with more people getting the help that they need. Eating disorders are silent… we need to give them a voice, we need to make them loud.
M x 

Giving the silent illness a voice

Myths and Misconceptions

There are lots of misconceptions surrounding Eating Didorders, here are 8 main myths that stand out to me and need to be challenged.

1. Anorexia is a phase

It can often be thought that anorexia or bulimia are ‘phases’ that someone can and will ‘grow out of’. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is a very damaging view to take. This misconception comes from a lack of understanding and knowledge that surrounds eating disorders. Often those suffering will be viewed as a ‘fussy eater’ or ‘being difficult’ some may go as far as to say ‘attention seeking’. If you know someone who appears to be fussy or difficult it’s important that you look a bit closer and be open to the fact that more may be going on inside. By telling someone it’s a phase that they can just ‘snap out of’ can have negative implications, causing the person with the disorder to be more closed and withdrawn for fear of being judged and their struggles shrugged off as a ‘phase’. Eating disorders are real and serious.

2. Eating disorders will just go away in time. 

They absolutely, most definitely will not just go away. It may be possible to attempt recovery without help however most people with an eating disorder will need medical intervention and professional help in order to begin the road to recovery. By ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away will escalate the problem. The sooner help is sought the more chance of a successful recovery. If things are swept under the carpet, more damage will be done.

3. You have to be thin to be anorexic 

This is everything that is wrong with attitudes and perceptions, made increasingly worse by the media. Anorexia is a preoccupation with weight and body image, a control over food when all other areas of life feel out of control. You do not need to look ill, to be ill. Many people do not seek the help they so desperately require because they feel that they are not ‘sick enough’ and that they are not deserving of treatment. When I was in hospital, although I was not at my lowest weight physically I was at my most unwell mentally. Yes I was considerably underweight, I looked ill and bones were visible BUT there were people who were a lower weight than me. I remember being told ‘you aren’t in that bad a situation, you will turn things around quickly’ by a fellow inpatient. Not only did this reinforce the feelings of not needing treatment but it also fed into the thoughts of not being ‘ill enough’. Looking back I can see I was very unwell mentally and I needed just as much help as the person who said it to me. Weight is irrelevant. Anorexia is a mental illness. The mind can be ill even when everything looks fine on the outside.

4. Eating Disorders are a female illness

Due to the media eating disorders have been portrayed as a female only illness. Men don’t get eating disorders, it’s not a’manly’ disorder. This however is incorrect. Men do have eating disorders however they find it more difficult to seek help because of the stigma attached. It’s important that more awareness is given to the fact men are just as likely to suffer and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Eating disorders are a mental illness, not a gender specific illness.

5. Parents are to blame for eating disorders

Many people assume that the ‘blame’ lies with the parents or family. Each circumstance is different and an eating disorder can be triggered by so many different factors. Very often there is not one specific cause but a series of events and feelings that have built up over time. Noone is to blame and it’s important that this feeling of blame is explored and dealt with.

6. Someone with an eating disorder has a choice

People believe that someone suffering with anorexia conciously chooses not to eat or someone diagnosed with bulimia chooses to purge after eating and someone with Binge Eating Disorder chooses to binge and overeat. The truth is, when suffering from an eating disorder there is no choice, you feel completely out of control of your actions and compulsions take over. You do not choose not to eat, you are terrified of food and physically can’t let yourself. Just like in bulimia you are terrified of keeping food in your stomach and you have to purge yourself. Those with BED want to stop eating but cannot do so. It’s not as simple as choosing to do or not do a behaviour. In theory those suffering do have a ‘choice’ but they are not able to control this or see the choice. A treatment programme is needed to help see the choice and that we are all in control of our behaviour.

7. People can only have one type of eating disorder 

Eating disorders are interchangeable and very often people can transition through several different eating disorders. For example someone may have anorexia and when they begin refeeding and recovery they begin overeating and purging. This can happen when the body panics and thinks it may not get any more food so the binges begin and as this is such a scary time purging can feel like the only option. Just as easily could someone who has BED and begins recovery and they are so unhappy with their body that they begin to restrict and then transition into anorexia. Eating disorders do not always occur in isolation. The right treatment needs to be given at the right stage.

8. Recovery from an eating disorder is a straight road

Recovering from any disorder is not an easy ride, nor is the road straight. There will be many ups and downs, blips in the road, days where you just cannot see a way forward, where you don’t want recovery any more. Then there will be days where eating feels easier, happy days creating memories and living life. Then there will be days where you feel down and deflated or as high as a kite. Every day is a challenge bringing with it its own challenges. But recovery teaches you to cope with the bad days. It’s so important for loved ones, family and friends to understand that it’s not ‘plain sailing’ even when you are doing well it’s easy for people to think it’s over, you are recovered however it’s ok to still struggle, it’s normal for recovery. It’s important to accept that recovery can take years and there will be blips and slips but this is expected.
This is my favourite image that shows what recovery is really like,

Have you heard any other myths or misconceptions that surround Eating Disorders that you think needs to be challenged?

Myths and Misconceptions

I Only Went And Did It!

This time last year I was going into an inpatient unit to begin a recovery programme. I was weak, had little energy and just walking up the stairs gave me palpitations and left me breathless. Last weekend I ran my first half marathon. Needless to say I am extremely proud at how far I have come!

When I was in the depths of anorexia I was addicted to exercise, I would sit on an exercise bike in the gym for hours. I could never run because I didn’t have the energy for such physical exercise and I could sustain a bike for much longer. This in itself shows me I was exercising for the wrong reasons. I wanted to exercise in any way that burnt the most calories, I didn’t care what exercise I was doing and I didn’t really enjoy the gym because I was exhausted but I felt compelled to go. If I didn’t then I was failing, I wasn’t burning calories and to me my mind told me I would put on weight and get fat.

Through the recovery programme and stopping exercise altogether I was able to see that I didn’t NEED exercise. I got my body back to healthy and then slowly reintroduced exercise in a controlled way.

It turns out that I did really enjoy running and because I was fuelling my body I had the energy to do it. When I was discharged from hospital I wanted to keep running but I didn’t have the confidence to do it alone so I found a running group and joined them once a week. Attending this first session took me out of my comfort zone because I was nervous around people, I knew that I would be the ‘new girl’ and that made me very anxious. However I knew that I needed to be challenging these fears and so I went along. This is one of the best things I have EVER done, they were lovely, welcoming and supportive. 

From here I fell in love with running, I loved that my body was getting stronger with every run and I was achieving things I never thought I could. The eating disorder was so consuming that I was never able to look to the future. I decided to sign up to a half marathon as something to work towards. All of my life I told myself that I wish I could run a half marathon and it never felt achieveable.
The run took a lot of preparation and a lot of fuel to keep me training strong. Learning to listen to what my body needs as opposed to restricting what it can have has taken a while to achieve but I’m proud that I have recovered enough to be able to do this.

When I go for runs I don’t think about how many calories I’m burning or weight I am loosing, I focus on how strong my body is getting and what I am achieving.

On Sunday I ran Coventry half marathon and I’m so proud that my body is fit and healthy enough to do it. The buzz from finishing was incredible! Nothing and no one can ruin my mood this week!

Now I focus on what my body can do not what it can’t. I focus on nourishment instead of restriction and I now train to be strong not skinny.

Your body is an amazing thing, you just have to treat it right.

Mx

I Only Went And Did It!

Taking A Chance

A couple of years ago I was offered inpatient treatment. It was strongly advised that I admit myself into an eating disorder unit and when I refused I was almost sectioned. I don’t quite know how I avoided it. The papers were as good as signed but I talked the talk and escaped that route. That’s not important, what was was my reason for not wanting the treatment. I think a lot of people will be thinking and feeling the same. 

I had a good job that I enjoyed. It wasn’t where I wanted to be long-term but it was a full time, stable job. Knowing I would need hospitalisation scared me anyway but I wasn’t willing to leave work. Ironic as it was I was still signed off for 2 months. But the job was still waiting for me. I got a little better, or my weight increased anyway but I never dealt with anything, I was eating as a means to an end. 

I should have known a relapse was inevitable. 

As career progression I decided to leave my job and pursue my first HR role. This was where I wanted my career to go and it felt like a fresh start. It wasn’t a fresh start at all, I was running away. 6 months in and anorexia showed her face with a vengeance. I had never recovered, I wasn’t better and it wasn’t going to just go away. In my mind a change in surroundings was the answer and would allow me to have that fresh start. In my head and heart I knew I needed treatment but I was terrified of leaving work. I was worried what my family would think, how my boyfriend would react, how the bills would get paid and throughout my treatment I was scared to death about having a career gap on my Cv, especially a 12 month gap. 
I was faced with so many questions

– How would I explain it to anyone

– Who would employ someone with a break in their cv that lasted a whole year and because of medical reasons?

– How could I answer questions in an interview around illness affecting my work performance, because it did.

– What would happen when a reference was requested and my old employee said I had time off due to illness

– How would I ever get back to a normal life working full time?

I know I did the strong thing. I took the situation into my own hands, I wanted to recover so that I could pursue a successful career. I couldn’t carry on starting to recover and then relapsing worse than before. I couldn’t put my already fragile body and mind through that.

There will be challenges and your CV will be challenged, you have nothing to hide. I recently had an interview with a company I instantly felt passionate towards, a job that will be rewarding and challenging but a really great job that I can continue to build my career in. The application process involved a medical disclosure. I could have lied and ticked all the ‘no’ boxes. But did I want that? The eating disorder made me into a different person, a secretive person who would lie and manipulate. Did I really want to potentially start a new job with this huge lie hanging over me? Obviously the answer is no. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to hide the illness but not anymore. I’m no longer ashamed and embarrassed that I was ill. I know it wasn’t my fault and can happen to anyone. Needless to say by being honest and writing what I had been through on my application, I was so surprised when I received a call offering me an interview.

During my interview I brought up the subject of my health because I wanted to be open and honest from the start. I felt so much better for being truthful and I know that it was appreciated. Recovering from an eating disorder requires huge strength, will power, dedication and hard work.

 It is a full time job.

Whether I was successful in the interview is irrelevant. What is important is that you are brave enough to put yourself out there, admit you were unwell but owning that part of your life. 

Whether you are successful or not, just tell yourself what I did. If I am being turned down because I suffered from an eating disorder then I wouldn’t want to work for a company like that anyway.

My tips to interviews and career gaps: 

1. Be honest

2. Be proud of how far your have come

3. Don’t hold back from a job because you don’t think you are good enough

4. Don’t try and justify your illness – you don’t have to explain yourself, you haven’t done anything wrong

5. Don’t try and second guess what the employer is thinking

6. Be yourself – let your personality show

7. Practice answering a difficult question such as ‘why were you out of work’ so you don’t get flustered

8. Remember the interviewer is human to

9. Believe in yourself 

10. Be positive!

For the record I was successful and I was offered the job. I can’t wait to start with my new company. This is a chance for me, a chance to move on. This truly is a fresh start. I’m not running away from anything this time or trying to change my surroundings to make me better. I faced my demons head on and I’m so excited to see where this journey leads me.

Be brave, you will surprise yourself.

  

M x

Taking A Chance

Stamp Out The Stigma

This month is National Eating Disorder Awareness month. More specifically 21st-27th of February. It’s time to stamp out the stigma of mental health and give it the attention, education and understanding that it needs. There are many recognised mental health illnesses that seem to be accepted as an illness but personally I don’t think Eating Disorders are received so well.
The goal of NEDA week is to put the spotlight on just how serious Eating Disorders are. 

Stamp out the Stigma

As someone who has been through the pain and suffering of an Eating Disorder and also seeing friends suffer I am well aware of the stigma attached. “Just eat” and “it’s just a phase” or “you look better, you’ve put on weight” are common misconceptions of what an Eating Disorder is and highlights exactly what is wrong with society and its attitude. It all boils down to a lack of understanding.

It’s a complicated illness – it’s not about weight and it’s definitely not about food so I can see where the confusion lies. If I were to ask 10 people on the street the question “What is an Eating Disorder?” I would put money on at the very least 9 people telling me it’s when someone doesn’t want to eat and loses lots of weight or wants to be thin. On the outside looking in that is exactly what an Eating Disorder is but it’s not. Not eating and losing weight is not an Eating Disorder- it is the outcome and consequence of the eating disorder.

Educating Society

What is an Eating Disorder? 

It is a psychological illness. It is a way of coping and feeling in control when everything else in life feels out of control. An Eating Disorder or preoccupation with weight loss acts as a mask of what is really going on. A person suffering from an Eating Disorder often struggles to show emotions and feelings, instead of dealing with these emotions because they are to difficult to contemplate they are pushed away and weight may become the new focus. By shifting focus the sufferer doesn’t need to deal with what is really happening inside. Weight and food are often focused on because they are something that can be controlled. You can control exactly what you eat and you can control your weight because of this. Eating Disorders may stem from wanting to feel better about yourself, that’s when people begin to exercise and lose weight. Before long they have found something they can do, something they are good at. This temporarily improves esteem and mood but it’s never good enough- that’s when the Eating Disorder has taken over.

What Eating Disorders LOOK like:
– desire to lose weight

– diets or diets gone wrong

– a phase

– someone being difficult

– attention seeking

What Eating Disorders are ACTUALLY about:

– self-hate

– inability to deal or express emotions

– being a perfectionist but never feeling good enough

– feeling out of control but trying your hardest to gain control

– self-destruction

– mental and physical pain

– poor self-esteem

– feeling unworthy and inadequate

Why is awareness to important?

I mentioned self- destruct because ultimately this is what is happening. When going through an Eating Disorder the sufferer knows they are destroying themselves but they can’t stop, they are too far into the illness to make the changes and this is why medical intervention is so important. If you can recognise the signs early on you can help prevent the downward spiral that happens so quickly. This is where my first list comes in. If you see this then more often than not someone will be internally struggling with an Eating Disorder. NEDA week is all about spotting the signs and showing how important treatment is.

The more people understand Eating Disorders and stop ignoring them hoping they will go away the more chance there is of helping the individual. Mental health issues don’t just go away, people don’t just start eating again, mental health issues ante real and need work and support and time.

If you have learnt one thing from this blog then it has served its purpose.

  Please read and share my blog, help National Eating Disorder Awareness continue to educate people and dispel the myths of any eating disorder. Awareness isn’t a cure but early intervention may save someone’s life.

M x

Stamp Out The Stigma

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! 

You may have noticed that I have been quiet for a little while, but I’m back and ready for some serious blogging in 2016!

Who else reflects on their year on New Years Day? I do, I like to look back and see what has gone well and what I would like to change.

What can I say, it’s been a challenging year to say the least! However although I spent most of it in hospital recovering from anorexia, I’m so glad I did. It was awful, painful, I hated every single day and was desperate to leave but I stuck it out. Somehow I had it in me to see the treatment through. I can now be proud of how far I have come. Not only have I set myself on the road to recovery I have also set myself up to entering 2016 strong and healthy. I’m one for New Years resolutions, well setting them at least! Every year for around 6 years I’ve sent that New Year’s Eve text apologising to my family for what I’ve put them through and promising next year will be different. It never was. I was saying and promising what I thought everyone wanted to hear. On 31st December 2014 I made the same promise. This time I stuck to it, I got help and last night when I made that same promise, that next year will be different I can be confident that it will, because I’ve already taken the steps I need to fulfill that promise. I’m in such a good place compared to what I was that I’m entering 2016 feeling strong and healthy. This year my goal isn’t to survive the year as it was last year but I have so much more I want to achieve. My goal isn’t to learn how to eat properly again, isn’t learning to feed myself or tolerate myself, it’s not purely existing but to run my first half marathon and then my second and third for charity. This time last year I could only of dreamed of being able to do that.
I have big hopes for 2016, I can’t wait to be the best I can be, focusing on my career, my little business venture, starting my new role as a running leader, running my half marathons, being the kind of daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend that my family deserves. Recovery is still very important to me and I will be working on this everyday, making sure that everything I do is having a positive effect on me, building my confidence and making me as happy as I can be.

I’ve got big dreams and I can’t wait to see where this year takes me!!

Happy New Year to you all, remember recovery is possible. I’m always here to give advice and share my experiences with you so please just ask.

Let’s raise a glass (of prosecco, not water this year 😉 ) to a healthy year.

M x

  

Happy New Year

This IS Recovery

This is what recovery looks like to me!
So as I have been out of hospital a while and have maintained a healthy weight I have done something I never thought I’d ever be able to do.
I have signed up to my first half marathon!
This time last year I couldn’t even walk up the stairs without feeling weak – I genuinely thought I was going to die, that’s how little energy I had. Today I received my half marathon training pack and you know what, I CAN DO IT!

To me this is what recovery looks like. I have always said the most important words to me are SECOND CHANCES and that is why I have chooses to run for Myton Hospice. The nurses at Myton help people who will not get a second chance.

I’m living life to the full now and having the energy to run feels amazing.
I’ve got my second chance and I’m going to do something amazing with it- I am never going to look back.
Is there something you have always wanted to do, but your eating disorder or mental illness has held you back? Recovery is fighting everyday until you are strong enough mentally and physically to do it!

I want to raise as much money as I can for people who don’t have the second chance that I do.

https://www.justgiving.com/Michelle-Mumford

M x

This IS Recovery